Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 3 Games of the Year, 2010

2010 is drawing to a close, and I must confess in many ways it reminds me of 2007. I bought my Xbox 360 in December 2006 with three 2007 releases in mind: Mass Effect, BioShock, and Halo 3. Each is an excellent game and established 2007 as an excellent year to be a gamer. Flash forward to 2010 and not only was there a small selection of releases that garnered my attention, but the key ones just so happened to be sequels to the above titles.

Now, as I mention every year, I am not a professional game reviewer and as such, I don't get review copies; what I play is what I buy with my hard earned cash just like you. This means that I don't play everything since I'm not going to spend my money on a title I'm not interested in, so keep this in mind if you see a Triple A title missing from the below list.

3) BioShock 2 (Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 3). The original BioShock was an exceptional game. Combining survival and psychological horror as a shooter with RPG elements, BioShock took players to Rapture, an underwater city that was the monument of a failed vision. The catch with BioShock, however, is that it was a game that didn't need a sequel.

When I first saw BioShock 2 announced, I was both excited and hesitant for that very reason. As gameplay footage began to surface, my hesitation grew as it appeared to me that 2K Marin, the new studio developing the title, was simply actioning up a game that shouldn't have been actioned up. Because of this, I passed on launch day.

Fast forward a few months later, and I saw BioShock 2 on sale for $34.99 and decided to bite. And I'm glad I did. While not as innovative as its predecessor, BioShock 2 is a wonderful return to Rapture with a story that proves to be far more touching, if less disturbing, than the original's. Not only did BioShock 2 provide a very enjoyable 20 hour single player experience, it also introduced Multiplayer to the franchise, which surprisingly was also quite enjoyable.

The overall package is a strong one, allowing players to experience Rapture as a Big Daddy for the first time, and fans of the franchise should not pass up this latest sojourn into the Atlantic.

2) Halo: Reach (Xbox 360). Bungie's swan song to their cherished franchise, there was never any doubt that Halo: Reach was going to be an epic title. Spanning nearly a decade, the Halo franchise has been a household name with the Xbox platform and a huge leader in sales for Microsoft.

Halo: Reach is a prequel to the Halo trilogy, telling the story of Noble Team, a group of Spartans, and their part of the valiant but hopeless defence of the planet Reach. The Campaign sports the high end polish of fast and furious shooter action coupled with excellent vehicle scenarios that we've come to expect from Bungie, and it also features the best enemy AI I've ever experienced in a game, bar none. Being a prequel the Elites make a cunning return as enemies to the franchise, and they're both a joy and a bane to fight.

Rounding out the excellent 10 hour Campaign is the exceptional Multiplayer experience. Bungie desired to offer players the greatest online Halo experience ever, and they've certainly accomplished this goal. With new Armour abilities adding variety to the standard mix, great new game types such as Invasion and Headhunter, and full, proper, customizable support of Firefight, there's hundreds of hours of content to keep gamers busy over Xbox LIVE.

The Halo experience and Bungie's efforts with it are one that has, without question, changed my gaming life, and it is with the greatest sincerity that I thank them and wish them the best on their future projects.

1) Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, PC). While the overall Halo experience has been an amazing decade-long journey, one company has provided engrossing and exceptional action RPG experiences for nearly as long. BioWare's latest offering, Mass Effect 2, is without question not only the greatest game I've played this year, but also the greatest game I've played in the last few years.

Featuring exceptional character development and superb storytelling, BioWare's sci-fi masterpiece is a 50 to 60 hour experience that is light years ahead of anything on the silver screen, let alone it's digital competition. Allowing players to import their characters from the original game, your choices as Commander Shepard truly have meaning and not only affect your current game, but your future games to come. Combine that with improved combat and conversation systems, compelling characters and side stories, and a whole galaxy for players to explore, you truly have a rare gem of a title in your hands.

No other game provided such a full, complete, and emotionally compelling experience as Mass Effect 2, and PlayStation 3 owners will get their chance to see how amazing this game is when it launches for their platform at the end of January 2011.

Ironically, Mass Effect 2 was such a massive experience that BioWare was required to place it on two DVD's, requiring players to swap discs at least twice throughout their playthrough. Given the scope of the game, this minor inconvenience is easily overlooked, and it is with great pleasure that I award Mass Effect 2 our Game of the Year for 2010.

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