Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Game of the Year!

It's finally time. In fact, it's past time. It's belated. Were this a magazine and not a blog, I might get away with that first sentence, but since that's not the case, well...thanks for waiting.

I've gone through the games I've played that came out in 2009, and picked one Game of the Year and five runner ups. (Publishers, listen: Just because your game didn't make it, doesn't mean I didn't like it; perhaps I didn't play it, or maybe it just wasn't GOTY or runner-up material. It's not like an "award" from this unknown blog really makes much of a difference, right? In any case, we can still be friends.)

Before we get to the awards, let me explain my criteria for determining my selections. To really impress me, the game had to be:

1. Fun.

That's about it. I don't care if the graphics looked like ASCII art. I don't care if the sound was MIDI. While good looks and audio do add to the experience, the thing I really care about is spelled out in the thorough list above.

To the awards!

In no particular order, the runner ups were:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Played on PC)
I'll admit right off the top that the multiplayer didn't live up to that of the first MW game. So what? The single-player experience was sublime: It shocked, engaged, challenged, and delighted me. Yes, there was the shocking, early level that the game offered to let you skip--but if you played it through it induced the urge in your loins to KILL THOSE GODDAMN TERRORISTS! The momentum of that controversial level carried me through the game, and it was a hell of a ride.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
I said graphics don't really matter--but I also said they do add to the game. This sucker features visual splendor unseen before. I don't recall very many repeated textures, cookie cutter level design (see: Halo), or anything besides jaw dropping eye candy. But wait, there's more: Next to the GOTY winner itself, the platforming in U2:AT blows everything else out of the water. I could have done with less combat, but the engagements were fun and exciting. Finally, points go to the game for making the hero, Nathan Drake, an interesting and deep character who actually displayed emotion and vulnerability.

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)
I already praised the audio of this stellar title. The voicework, music and sound effects were absolutely terrific. The things I enjoyed the most about Batman, though, were the stealth (strategically picking off armed guards one at a time) and the outright combat (clobbering a mob of unarmed guards with jaw breaking excellence). One of few titles I've taken the time to play through twice, B:AA deserves recognition.

Prototype (Played on PC)
I don't care about the criticism. I loved this game, and the reason is, as Alex I felt like the most badasss killing machine I've ever played. Come on. The dude can cut through entire armies of the infected without breaking a sweat. Heck, can he even sweat at all? He's made of goo. Does goo sweat? It sure can steal helicopters, which was another high point of the game, and the story told through the innovative Web of Intrigue worked for me.

Dragon Age: Origins (Played on PC)
Confession: I haven't finished this epic and very long game yet. Fact: I am going to, with gusto. While not quite Baldur's Gate II level of pure awesome, DA:O is nevertheless a mind blowing experience. Bioware could have done better graphically, but the story is holding my interest plot point to plot point, and the conversations with various party members and other folk are actually interesting and not stuffed with dull filler as they are in any number of RPGs. I'm sold. Unless the bottom drops out in the final act, this game is solid.

One honorable mention goes to Duke Nukem Forever, for being cancelled. Maybe. Or not. Who knows?

Another honorable mention goes to the PS3 revamp of the two PS2 God of War games. Talented artists goosed the PS2 graphics of the duo to look outstanding in high def on the PS3, and the gameplay holds up.

Game of the Year: Assassin's Creed II (Played on Xbox 360)
It's hard to criticize this title. It's just so good. The original AC entertained me until about four hours in, when it became boring and repetitive. Gradually, I grew to resent Altiar.

Italian assassin Ezio, however, is a digital god to me. There's so much more to do in this game, a much better plot, a much keener progression, and overwhelming incentive to play, play, and play some more. The platforming, using the puppeteer interface, is pure joy. The increased range of weaponry and armor, costumes and more, is oh so welcome. AC2 features so many ways to kill your target and anyone who gets in your way, there's actually a strategic element woven in. I don't want to spoil the game for anyone thinking of picking it up, so I won't mention specifics, but you can take out guards up close or from range with a dizzying variety of lethal means.

Being able to hire help successfully sidesteps the overuse of repetitive combat from the first game. Brawlers, hookers, and thieves will gladly accept Ezio's cash--which you earn in an entire subgame by fixing up a family villa--in return for fighting or distracting annoying guards.

There's way, way too much going for this game, more than I have time to write about. The visuals are eye popping, the voice acting is great...Ezio can swim! In Venice!!

That's it for now. Promise to post more.


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