- by Logan Witt
Wow, what a year. 2010 was such a great year in gaming for us that it's taken us until February to get our "Best Of" lists together. I'll be going first in giving my winners for the last year, so kick back, relax, and prepare to find something you may not agree with.
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Regardless of what complaints I've had about the previous installments (read, first AC was buggy as hell), the story has always been one of the most intriguing in recent memory. The setting, both place and time, have always personally fascinated me, and the intriguing characterization twists for historical figures like da Vinci and Machiavelli make it even more impressive. Ezio returns with the rest of the Auditore clan, bringing back some of my favorite characters. The story also includes more of Desmond's near future scramble to stop the end of the world, and makes him and the crew introduced in AC II more likable and with deeper character. It also throws a couple of genuine "holy $#!^" moments in at the end of each respective story, providing a fantastic experience.
God of War III “Hope”
Very few games, let alone series, have consistently pushed such grand, cinematic events like the God of War franchise has, and the end sequence to III delivers the perfect capstone to an incredible story. Anyone familiar with the myth of Pandora's Box could see from a mile off what card they were going to play, but it didn't take anything away from how well it was crafted. Kratos' distaste for the gods, living, dead, or otherwise, along with the constant internal struggle over the loss of his family, propel his final act of defiance, which provides hope to humanity, as an unintended consequence, of course. Well crafted, well pulled off, GoW III's finale will go down, in my mind, as one of the greatest ever.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Gather round kids, let me tell you a little story. After months off and on of trying to finish this game, we wound up one night finally beating Super Gideon. What we didn't know was that this was only Gideon's first form, and it took us completely by surprise to face Gigadeon Graves, and a stroke of sheer luck to beat him. But wait, there's more! Another full level, and then finally the real Gideon. We were so close to the end, but we were out of range. Then Daniel resorted to what had become his favorite little trick, picking up my character and tossing me at him. And I'll be damned if that wasn't the blow that beat him. All game long we found it so convenient, and often accidental, and sometimes frustrating, to pick each other up and bash enemies all across the stage that it became another really fun component of one of the best downloadable games of the year, and one of the most fun experiences from a nostalgic standpoint.
Best “Holy S#*t!” Moment
Daniel stole mine, as you'll see one day when he finishes his list, and I didn't just want to copy him. But that's not to take away from the sheer "holy $#!^"-ness that was having giant pieces of a stage fall on you while you're doing 140 trying to get out from under it. The falling plane on the runway, the falling control tower on the runway, the falling bridges and other giant pieces of architecture...just awesome. Raises the heart rate, gets you to jump out of your seat and scream at the t.v., and even after you've seen it for the hundredth time, it's still awesome.
Best Boss Fight
Transformers: War for Cybertron
The final Decepticon battle pits you against the largest Autobot on Cybertron who also, by now is pretty pissed off at you for trying to destroy it. With a myriad of cover-destroying weapons, Omega Supreme forces you to think fast, act faster, and aim perfectly in order to bring him down. Strategy is paramount in this last obstacle for Megatron, not only in learning Omega's attack pattern, but also in finding which weapons drop where, which weapons work the best, and knowing the difference in when to stand and take your shot or to run like hell. The attack pattern seems to randomize on the harder difficulty settings, making you rethink everything you might've thought before, but without making so hard as to be ridiculous.
God of War III
This game was made for HDTV. There's no question about it. Anyone (like myself) playing this game in standard definition is definitely not getting quite the full intended effect here. To see God of War III in shimmering 1080p is why high-definition was invented. Say what you will about the gameplay or music, but the visual experience of God of War III is astonishing. while the environments may be few, they are fabulously well-detailed and sometimes quite large. Watching Cronos in the middle of The Pit of Tartarus, seeing Hephaestus at his cramped, yet vast forge, or starting slack-jawed at the opening sequence of the Titans climbing Mount Olympus, God of War III sets the bar for visual amazingness.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Anamanaguchi rocks the chiptunes in the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim in a big way. I love me some old-school game music, but there did come a point where it all seemed to blur into the same sort of note patterns. Not so with Scott Pilgrim; the soundtrack completes the nostalgia trifecta (visuals, gameplay, audio) perfectly and helps deliver a masterful experience while also reminding us of when we were 9 and shouting out instructions to the buddy standing next to us about who's gonna go after who and who's gonna keep the other minions covered. Not just that, though, the soundtrack is an amazing standalone collection that really rocks the house.
Best Voice Acting
Watch the very opening scene. That should do it. No seriously, go YouTube it, I'll wait. Back?? Fantastic. Kainé's dialogue never abates during the time she's around, which fortunately is a fair chunk of game time. It's not the language itself, but the tremendous over-the-top quality that is clearly intended that makes it so funny. Jamieson Price shouldn't be overlooked as Nier, but as he does deliver a tremendously solid performance, top honors have to go to Liam O'Brien as Grimoire Weiss. Who ever would've thought a talking book could have such dry wit, or be so funny?? O'Brien delivers a fabulous performance that makes Weiss an exceptionally likable character with just the right amount of balance between companion and smartass.
Nier was the kind of character who was just "that guy"; nothing special, no powers or elevated standing in the world, just a guy who wanted to cure his daughter and was willing to do absolutely whatever it took to accomplish his goal. Nier's determination, his great banter back and forth with Grimoire Weiss, as well as his willingness to help out anyone in his village in need help to make him a tremendously easy character to relate to and feel for. Nier is the everyman protagonist done right from his total fatherly devotion to his suspicion of his floating book companion's true motives show he's not a character of blind faith to be easily duped. Hardworking, intelligent, and steadfast, Nier is a remarkable hero.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
“Gideon (And All Of His Goddamn Forms!)”
He's big, he's bad, and now we beat him! Wait, what, there's another level! Dammit! What the *^%& is that! He's back! Yay, he's dead again! What!? Another stage!? C'mon man, you gotta be kidding! Okay, here we go, one last round. That was the general tone of conversation on our group's final playthrough for Scott Pilgrim, because no boss has really been able to piss me off quite as much as Gideon Graves while still being so well used. He was the perfect boss for a beat 'em up because even if you didn't know the storyline for Scott Pilgrim, by the end you wanted to beat the elitist looking ponce to a pulp just on principle! Gideon was the right kind of frustrating, not cheap, not ridiculously hard, but challenging in all of the right nostalgic ways to really make you want to do a happy dance after seeing his beloved Chaos Theater collapse all around him.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Here it is February of 2011 and I'm still playing BC:2 multiplayer (*note- not an FPS guy). Never have I had so much fun with multiplayer in an FPS game, thanks to the balance in the unlockables system, the fairly wide variety of loadout customization options, the large maps, and the destructible environments. DICE really hit the nail on the head here with something tremendously enjoyable, and enough variety per map that the handful of modes can still provide different experience for each match. And with the new Vietnam expansion, DICE just keeps on rolling out the online goodness to tide me over until BC:3. Take your time guys, I'm gonna be here for a while.
Most Disappointing Game
This game had so much potential for awesomeness. Liam O'Brien voicing War, Mark Hamill voicing his constantly nagging demon "handler" The Watcher, a post-apocalyptic setting where you play as one of the Four Horseman braving the armies of Heaven and Hell so that you can clear your name! But the gameplay fell so flat, so tragically, terribly flat that it overshadowed any chance Darksiders had as a real fun title. Your movement is sluggish, even once you're finally on horseback, the carbon-copy Zelda combat elements don't belong in this kind of game (I love Zelda, but be honest, the combat isn't what you come for), the Portal gun sections either held no challenge or were the hair-pulling kind of frustrating that can only come from very strained mechanics, and the actual story is tremendously uninteresting. It's sad, because I really, really wanted to enjoy this game, I wanted it to be up there in my Game of the Year list, I thought it was almost a no-brainer, but alas, Vigil Games needs to go back to the drawing board if they hope to put out a quality sequel in the next couple of years.
Top 10 Games of 2010
Cavia's swan song was a triumph of an action-RPG that publisher Square-Enix would do well to take notes from. First off, the floating book was voiced by Liam O-Brien, enough said. Probably more importantly overall, though, is the fact that Nier gets back to what it means to tell a story and to tell it right. Oh and by the way they threw in some very solid gameplay to go along with it. Building on the most stunningly fantastic opening scene in the history of video games right on startup, Nier lends itself to the old style of multiple playthroughs resulting in different endings that unveil more details about the world Nier lives in, but there is one very interesting twist that brings an actual real-life consequence for uncovering the entire truth, and only those bold enough to make that sacrifice will fully understand the consequences of Nier's actions, and in the age of simply going to Wikipedia to look it up anyway, you have to applaud Cavia's approach of fully investing in a story so as to disregard that and put faith in their product to the point that gamers will want to replay so thoroughly. I did, and I enjoyed every playthrough. Nier really is a study in storytelling, and I'm saddened that there won't be a sequel.
This game isn't on here simply because of the over-the-top sexiness, but it sure didn't hurt. What really put it up here was a very well put together gameplay flow that made us remember what fun the old Devil May Cry games were before they got all stale and halfway done. The story is just the right kind of way out there conspiracy, and the battle against their particular deity at the end caps it off very nicely. It's definitely fun enough to warrant some extra playthroughs, particularly for anyone looking for a challenge (the "Infinite Climax" difficulty will tax even the most skilled gamer). Bayonetta is the kind of game, along with Platinum Games' other entry on the list, is a reminder that games don't have to have a multiplayer component in order to be high quality titles.
8. Dante's Inferno
Yes, it's a very highly stylized re-imagining of the source material, what did you expect?? I'll tell you what I expected, fun. And man did Visceral Games deliver. Albeit Dante's Inferno is a bit short, the gameplay is tremendously fun. Wait, what's that?? It's a God of War clone except with a Christian basis of sorts instead of ancient Greek myth?? So what?? It's an incredibly fun game, get over it. Not to mention the level of detail put into the designs of different levels and enemies. The different circles of Hell are very, um, thoroughly represented and Visceral pulled absolutely no punches in terms of content or graphic displays, as well they shouldn't have; it is Hell, after all. With a solid combat system that varies slightly enough to not be a "direct" God of War clone, properly disturbing scenery, a fairly decent story, and one hell of a boss battle towards the end (see Daniel's "Best Holy Shit! Moment), Dante's Inferno is a fun, fast-paced ride that leaves you wanting Visceral to adapt the rest of the Divine Comedy, which it seems like they are going to do.
7. Transformers: War for Cybertron
I was so hyped for this games simply because I was promised that it wouldn't suck like most of the Transfromers video-games have, and I was not disappointed. Both Autobot and Decepticon campaigns are fairly beefy and extraordinarily fun to play, certainly worth going back through again and again and would make this a great title just like that, but the added multiplayer vaulted it up into the top 10. Simple, yet habit-forming good, WfC's multiplayer really lets you utilize the strengths of your favorite Transformer, along with some added customizations, through quite a wide selection of modes ranging from Deathmatch to Conquest to King of the Hill. Escalation, however, is probably one of the most fun modes. Essentially the Transformers version of Horde mode, Escalation is so ridiculously fun and the strategies vary wildly from map to map. High Moon Studios did an incredible job and I'm really looking forward to the sequel slated for sometime in 2012.
6. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2
I had absolutely no knowledge of what the Naruto anime was about, but I'd heard a lot of people say that this was a fun game and I enjoyed the demo, so I thought I'd give it a try. In the surprise of the year, I found myself hooked on the gameplay right from the start. I'm not one for fighting games, but the mechanics in UNS2 made it easy to learn, incredibly fun, and the team-building combinations are vast enough to accommodate any style. I didn't pay much attention to the content of the story, as it evidently picks up far, far into the anime, but it was paced out well and hit all the right notes to go with the mood, picking up steam in a huge way toward the end. There are also plenty of side quests to compliment a fairly lengthy story mode, making the 30 hour gameplay trophy not as crazy as it might originally seem. The biggest kicker, though, was the multiplayer, both ranked and player matches. Being able to sort by similar level was a great way for me to get started, but once I was comfortable and really found my groove, sorting by connectivity became a much better option (some really laggy matches, but that happens sometimes), and anyone looking for a challenge can sort by more advanced players, if they dare, and of course you can always host your own match and see who decides to drop in. I definitely didn't see this coming, but UNS2 was a fantastic game that I recommend whether you know anything or care about the anime or not.
5. God of War III
The genuinely epic saga of Kratos comes to a spectacular close in God of War III. From the twisted styling that shows you beating down Poseidon through his own eyes, to the final confrontation with Zeus, to a tremendously well played-out ending, God of War delivers on the right notes. Although seemingly the shortest of the series, III crams in quite a bit of content, a lot of tremendous boss fights, and a great story that really ties everything together, not to mention the most amazing visuals to date. The challenge mode seemed too much easier this time, though, which was a pinch disappointing, but the main story is fun to go back through again either for trophy/achievement hunters or simply for the fun of it. SCE caps off a very unique twist on ancient Greek myth with a solid title that definitely adds to the roster of great PS3 exclusives.
4. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Wait, Logan, an FPS in your top 5?? What's the world coming to?? It's coming to ridiculously fun multiplayer coupled with a decent, albeit sort of rushed and short campaign, that's what. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the single-player in BC2, it was fun, engaging, and it presented characters that it was easy to connect with and care about, it just wasn't really spectacular. Not bad, not at all, just not quite amazing either. Call it "great". There, happy?? Okay, so then there's the multiplayer. I had never before played online multiplayer so much, particularly in an FPS. I kept BC2 from Gamefly for a month just to keep playing this multiplayer. The maps are a great mix of medium size to "whoa that's a pretty big freakin' map", the unlockable system is well put together, the customization options are great, and the players always seem to be having a blast. Rush and Conquest modes were fantastic, but I was hooked on the good old-fashioned Team Deathmatch. 4 teams of 4, destructible environments, tanks, rockets, great sniping positions, the fun just never ever ends! Had the campaign been amazing, this might actually have made #1, but that being said, it's a very solid all around package and has the best FPS multiplayer I've ever played. (Which makes me wonder what happened to DICE when they worked on Medal of Honor; not so much fun)
Vanquish was, to me, that kind of "where did that come from" title in 2010. I loved Platinum Games already for Bayonetta, so I was very interested to see what they were going to do with this. While it can be argued that the story may be a thin sort of sci-fi cliche and the characters could use a bit more polish, the gameplay far and beyond outshines any possible flaws (and the opening cutscenes has people exploding from a space microwave, how much mroe awesome can you get!?). The constantly fast-paced adrenaline rush that Vanquish delivers only slows long enough to let you catch your breath and the end of some stages before it throws you back out into its sweeping current of third-person shooter awesomeness. There's also a challenge mode included which puts you in one of a handful of settings from the game and turns lose five increasingly difficult waves of enemies, just in case you crave more action after you finish out the story mode. And believe me, you will.
2. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
I was very skeptical about the quality of the single-player experience in what seemed like a rush job by Ubisoft to push out a follow-up product with some tacked on multiplayer; I was never happier to have been proven wrong. Brotherhood delivers a fantastic AC story with intriguing new gameplay elements (like training your own guild of assassins to help you during missions, if you choose) that screams that Ubisoft really knows what they're doing here. The multiplayer also turned out to be a very simple, yet addictive feature that had me truly impressed. While the gameplay elements are essentially the same across the different modes, the dynamics of being in a team of hunters trying not to be seen or prey trying not to get caught make for a nice twist, as does the two-on-two-on-two setup in the third mode, making a nice circle of predator and prey which forces you and your partner to balance hiding and hunting. Brotherhood was a tremendously well-balanced, well-designed, and well-executed mid-step in the series that makes me expect bigger and better things with AC 3, and it also let's me know that Ubisoft doesn't intend on disappointing.
1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game
Oh how I've missed good 16-ish bit beat 'em ups! Drawing from one of my favorite graphic novel series, SPvTW: TG delivers a nostalgic rush that works so well off of the inclusion of old-school video game elements in the original graphic novels (it's enough to put you on a mobius strip). The gameplay works just like you'd expect, but that's part of what makes it so fun and addicting. Including an unlockable boss rush time attack mode and a survival horror mode pitting you against an ever-growing zombie horde for 30 minutes, the fun never seems to stop! If there's any drawback at all, it's the lack of online co-op, but there's still nothing quite like sitting in a room with a couple of friends shouting at each other and the t.v. just like back in the old days (see "Best Item" anecdote). The biggest draw for me was originally how fun it was, the little hands-on time I had at first; then after reading through the series (and loving it!) I bought the game myself to dive into and I never wanted to come up for air. It's a fantastic translation from a video-game-influenced comic to a comic-influenced video-game that brings back all the good memories with a rocking soundtrack by Anamanaguchi that's just icing on the cake.