I wasn't really intending to make a top-5 post, but last night I was puttering around on the 'net and came across Eurogamer's reader-voted top 50 games of 2009 poll. The presented form asks you to number and declare your top five titles of the year, and my own conclusions surprised me a bit.
This isn't my Game of the Year feature article, where I carefully measured quantity and quality in an effort to come to the scientific definition of "best" - this is just my own personal take, informed by my own appetites and inspirations. Still, my top two came as no surprise (though I find myself more satisfied with the #1 spot this time around) - and my top three leave little doubt as to which console I play my video games on.
Earlier I said that, by all measurable criteria, Among Thieves is the best game of the year - but beyond that, it's also the game I personally consider the most valuable in 2009. It is in all respects spectacular, but what really places it in the number one spot isn't merely its never-less-than-stunning presentation or solid gameplay or incredible sense of adventure.
It's the characters. I love Drake and Elena, and that's all there is to it. I could say this is a result of the script, the animation, the cutscene presentation and above all the voice work by Nolan North and Emily Rose, but let's not put it under such a microscope. I love Uncharted 2, and that's all there is to it.
Demon's Souls is an absolutely remarkable experience, so I won't labor over the hows and whys of it here. It is, for me, an unprecedented experience of grim determination, teeth-gritting tension, and glorious, deeply satisfying victory against the impossible.
inFamous is above-par, but it rarely exceeds the best in the open-world genre in terms of graphics, story presentation and polish. Where it explodes with quality is its jazzy, vibrant art direction and the wonderful, incredible gameplay.
The act of merely playing inFamous is pure pleasure. Sucker Punch mastered platforming in 3D back on the PS2, and here it marries perfectly with excellent third-person-shooter mechanics that neatly sidestep almost all of said genre's failings. The easy, wholesome satisfaction gleaned from simply playing inFamous is chicken soup for my gamer's soul.
Number FourIn terms of gameplay, Brütal Legend is sub-par or merely-par in almost every respect. There's neither anything particularly wrong or particularly impressive about playing the title, but experiencing its lively, funny, inspired world is another matter entirely.
Tim Schafer's easygoing sense of humor and limitless creativity burst at the seams of Brütal Legend, offering us escape to a world totally without pretensions. It is all about the uninhibited art direction, the zany characters and the worship of heavy metal. It's wonderful, is what it is.
Surprised? Me too - after all, I really tore Wet a new one in the review - but as the year wears on, I find I can't stop thinking about it. Yes the gameplay is unbalanced on harder difficulties, yes it's graphically unimpressive and a little buggy, but I love it.
It has such a balls-out, let's-go-fucking-mental spirit. The sub-par graphics and technology are suavely masked by great art direction and and its consistently spirited, zany presentation. It doesn't hurt that it takes the basic gameplay of the bullet-time third-person-shooters that have come before (Max Payne, Stranglehold) and improves on it in almost every way.
Why don't I have a copy of Wet? I need a copy of Wet!