Saturday, April 3, 2010

It was a very good year (so far).

2010 has enjoyed one helluva start, averaging three highly notable games per month. Given that one must work, eat, sleep and play, I was unable to wet my whistle on all games listed here - but by keeping one's ear to the ground it's not too hard to tell you what The Games Of 2010 (So Far) are. Let's get chronological.

January 5th
Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

A zany, beautiful, creative, balls-to-the-walls action extravaganza from celebrated director Hideki Kamiya, Bayonetta is one of - if not the - best brawlers ever made. Let's ignore pithy bullet-points like narrative and overall production values - when it comes to straight-up, hardcore, white-knuckle street-sweeping combat gameplay, Bayonetta can't be beat.

January 5th
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

The first game from Joe Madureira's Vigil Games took us all by surprise simply due to being pretty damn good. Better than that, I'd so so far as to call Darksiders great - the cleverly-crafted love-child of a hot three way between Devil May Cry, God of War and The Legend of Zelda - with the gameplay concepts of a handful of seminal titles thrown in for good measure.

Is it original? Not on your life - but (like Dead Space) that doesn't stop it from being a very worthy investment of your gaming time.

January 26th
Mass Effect 2
PC, Xbox 360

What can I say about Mass Effect 2? Not much, given that I don't own a 360 or gaming PC and so haven't actually played it - but if review scores are anything to go on, this is the early contender for Game of the Year. BioWare's status as the preeminent developer of RPGs for the western market is all but set in stone with this magnum opus of a space opera.

February 9th
BioShock 2
PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

All things considered, I have to give BioShock 2 my personal nod for the best game I've played in 2010. I could compare this apple to oranges all day, but I suppose it comes down to individual experience - and while I at least like every game I've tasted this year, this one I love.

BioShock - one of the best games of all time - didn't need a sequel, but BioShock 2 somehow manages to be the sequel it deserved. More than that, in many respects it's a better game than the original.

February 23rd
Heavy Rain
Playstation 3

All the title listed here are great games - but Heavy Rain is easily the worst on the list. It's more than a little pretentious, the writing and voice work are of variable quality, and it believes itself to be much more intelligent and accomplished than it actually is.

It's also a bit of mad genius, and if nothing else it is also the most unique title on the list. There is simply nothing else like it on the current gen. It doesn't hurt that it's also absolutely gorgeous, and occasionally actually manages to achieve its ambition. If you're sick of brawlers, shooters and otherwise straight-up action games, Heavy Rain is a breath of fresh air.

March 2nd
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

The original Bad Company set itself apart with the amount of choice available to the console player in its huge online battles (the Battlefield formula has been a staple on PCs for over a decade). Set against entirely destructible environments, the series allows you to drive tanks, fly helicopters, wield RPGs, or just sneak around in the dark with a knife and a sniper rifle. Bad Company 2 cranks everything up to 11, and manages to raise the bar for online shooters set just months ago by the legendary Modern Warfare franchise.

Good on DICE for pulling it off - but more impressive to me, personally, is that this game managed to pull my older brother away from Little Big Planet.

March 9th
Final Fantasy XIII
Playstation 3, Xbox 360

First shown over 4 years ago at E3, Final Fantasy XIII endured the limitless expectations associated with the legendary series known for constantly switching up its battle systems. Final Fantasy XIII throws perhaps the greatest curveball yet - an adventure that is entirely linear for the first twenty-five hours, and a battle system that quite comfortably plays itself while the gamer directs strategy from on high - and doesn't reveal its full measure of pleasure until you're a few dozen hours into the adventure.

The characters may be tiresome archetypes, but we've come to expect that from Square. We also expect incredible visuals, art direction and gorgeous CGI cutscenes - which Final Fantasy XIII also delivers in full.

March 16th
God of War III
Playstation 3

God of War III is a great capper to Kratos's tale of violence and vengeance, and it's pretty much everything we expect Sony Santa Monica to deliver. It is absolutely gorgeous, technically astounding, appallingly violent and utterly thrilling from start to finish. The pacing, design, execution and (perhaps more than anything else) the production values of the title are - as always - bar-raisers.

There are a few nits that can be picked from the lush, gorgeous hide of God of War III, but it's still a phenomenal game that should be experienced by all.

March 16th
Resonance of Fate
Playstation 3, Xbox 360

For me, Resonance of Fate is this year's Valkyria Chronicles (if you don't count Valkyria Chronicles 2, due out this summer). It knows exactly what it is, and it isn't like any other RPG.

Simply exploring the map is a mini-game. An incredibly complicated battle system has your gun-toting mercenary main characters soaring and racing across the battlefield, unloading rounds into fedora-wearing German shepherds with knives in their mouths in acrobatic ballets of death that simply cannot be understood by anyone who hasn't mastered the mechanics. To anyone else, it just looks nuts.

The standard melodramatic JRPG storyline takes a backseat to the playful, comfy banter and exploration of the three protagonists (the voice work is absolutely fantastic) - and if you get bored with any of that, you can duck into the closet at your home and play pretty princess dress-up.

Loving it.

* * *

I kinda' feel like I should have included Just Cause 2. But I didn't, and that's that.

So let us give thanks for January, February and March of 2010. Of course, now we can look forward to Episodes from Liberty City making its way to PS3 before the oh-my-God-this-looks-incredible Red Dead Redemption appears in May - and let's not forget about 3D Dot Game Heroes. ...I wonder when Peace Walker is coming out?

Ah, June 8th. It will be a very good year, again.

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