10. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
Dispensing with the original formula of base building, Dawn of War II took the stance of kicking ass without having to hunker down first to do it. Taking the role of the silent Space Marine Commander, you slaughter your way through the single-player campaign while taking charge of up to four unique squads of fellow Space Marines. Differing from the original and its expansions Jonny Ebbert, the game's lead designer, best describes the feeling of the title by saying it "takes everything that was great about the original and combines it with the best that Company of Heroes had to offer." While the game can be played cooperatively, going through the campaign alone is nonetheless an engrossing experience. Furthermore, branching battlefields, allowing the player to select the next location in the theatre of war and even, at times, the objectives themselves made for an extremely engrossing experience, which remained ripe with replay value. Essentially giving Warhammer 40K players the PC game they had always dreamed of in the sense that on the tabletop, you don’t have builder units, bases or worry about resources. You land, kick ass and sort everything out after. That is how Warhammer works and this is the best possible presentation I could’ve asked for in a game illustrating the awesome of 40K.
9. ‘Splosion Man
For anyone old enough to remember the fun that was to be had with platformers like Super Mario Brothers 3 and the original Sonic the Hedgehog, ‘Splosion Man will seem like someone kicked your ass into a time machine. From the introduction forward, Twisted Pixel created a game that wasn’t just full of a lot of humor, but also filled to the brim with enough gameplay to make the MS point cost easily justified. The story isn’t especially strong, but the game mechanics easily make up for this and a 2 to 4 player co-op mode guarantees a significant amount of replay value. While the amount of time spent playing is dependent on skill as well as likelihood of utilizing the “Way of the Coward”, this is still a fine game regardless of length. Probably one of the funniest games to premier in 2009 besides Brutal Legend or the remade Tales of Monkey Island, ‘Splosion Man easily takes the cake as one of the best games of ’09.
8. Halo 3: ODST
It wasn’t the perfect Halo experience that the fanatical Halo zealots have come to expect over the past several years from their beloved Bungie, but the fact that it was so differential from what had come before it is what made it stand out most. Taking the role of an ODST wasn’t what players had been used to in the original Halo trilogy. They had become used to playing as the Master Chief, able to leap buildings with a single bound and curbstomp a grunt without a second thought. That was the character we had all gotten used to playing. But when Bungie served up something different, just because they could, it was done remarkably well. Playing through the evening sections of the burnt out New Mombasa played a significant parallel to the daytime sections, which became all about straight up action. It wasn’t perfect, but a memorable experience all the same, it earned its place in the top 10.
7. Street Fighter IV
There is always going to be a new fighter for gamers to go bananas over, but what happens when the game that all modern titles in the fighting genre gets remastered for the next-gen consoles? Something amazingly, utterly mind-blowing. Not only was the game redone in a visual style that is graphical eye-candy, it plays well, fast and strong against other titles that premiered in the past year such as Soul Calibur IV and Tekken 6. Not to be outshone, Street Fighter IV consistently proves that it belongs as a fighter and I have a feeling, many gamers will be fluctuating between II and IV for many years to come.
6. Killzone 2
The original wasn’t a Halo-killer and neither was the second, but I’ll be damned if this game didn’t look as sexy as a Playstation title should. From the introduction on throughout the entire game, it distinguishes itself as one of the few must-have shooter titles on the Playstation 3. While the visual aesthetic is grimy, dirty and extremely bleak, that, my friends, is the visual style of war. Utterly forgotten about in the torrent of excitement up until the release of Modern Warfare 2 and since then, I still think this game definitely sets the precedence necessary for the inevitable Killzone 3 and personally, I can’t wait to play the hell out of that either.
5. New Super Mario Bro. Wii
If someone had told me 19 years ago that I would have my childhood packed in delicious nostalgia and resold to me again, I would’ve called them a filthy liar and punched them in the junk. Well, Nintendo has done it yet again. Following the slew of titles, from Metroid to Zelda and on through Punch-Out, we’ve been provided with a Mario title of note before the end of 2009. Bravo Nintendo. In all fairness though, it is a relatively fun game for four-player, regardless whether or not you grew up playing the original source material. Basically, envision Super Mario 3 and New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS and you have this game nailed down pat. Nonetheless, it is undeniably fun and that is what makes it one of my favorites of 2009.
4. Modern Warfare 2
I really don’t need to explain this, do I? But, as for its position on my list, it was a well-made game; there is no doubt about that. Infinity Ward knows how to make a good game. They just took a lot of what made the original Modern Warfare amazing and blew it all out of proportion ten-fold. Seriously, it was like turning the entire damn game up to 11 and from the narrative of the campaign to Spec Ops and ultimately the crack-addictive multiplayer, it is absolutely obvious why Modern Warfare 2 has sold, and been pirated, as much as it has.
3. Gratuitous Space Battles
Probably the overlooked strategy game of 2009, I think this game got significantly less love than it deserved. Taking the role of both Fleet Admiral and Engineer, you build the ships, form them up on the line, give them orders and let your captains do the rest. While at first very frustrating for me since I love to micromanage in RTS games, it took a long time for me to actually kick back and enjoy this title. However, once I did, the gratuitously beautiful battles pleased the eye and the strategy aspect kept me ravenously coming back for more. For such a fun game, it deserved so much more acclaim this year but missed it.
2. Plants vs. Zombies
There is an entire genre built around tower defense. People who will sit for hours mapping out strategies and figuring out the best way to utilize their turrets to massive effectiveness before committing to a run-through that invariably ends up on youtube somehow, but this is the genre for those people. Whether this game is for those people or not is relatively debatable. The best part about PvZ is that it is so lighthearted in nature, that few people that I’ve discussed it with who’ve played the game rarely are ever even aware of the term Tower Defense. They just see it as another rich game experience that conceals all the complicated aspects of traditional tower defense for the sake of fun. Sure, Plants stopping Zombies is ridiculous, but it’s goddamn fun.
1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Without a doubt the sleeper hit of the year, this game surprised the hell out of everyone and certainly left enough gamers wanting more to warrant a sequel. Essentially appealing to every male between the ages of 2 and 102, you get to try and fill the shoes of the Goddamn Batman. Not only was this game done well, it was of such high quality that in no short span of time, it became the underdog title bucking for game of the year. I don’t know how that happens by accident, but when video game content achieves a quality like this, I can only be left wishing for more accidents than a maternity ward during a power outage. Yes, you can dispute it as a game of the year as there is no perfect game, but as the best comic book hero game, it certainly takes home the cowl.
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