I haven't updated my blog as much as I'd have liked to recently, hopefully 2011 will get me blogging a bit more regularly. One of the reasons was due to time spent playing videogames. So, here's my favourite game of 2010 and the runners up (instead of the usual top 10).
Mass Effect 2
I think I enjoyed Mass Effect 2 more because I played the first game just before, for some reason I didn't check out ME earlier, even though bioware’s other RPG space-opera ‘Star Wars: Knights of the Republic’ is one of my all time favourite games. What struck me first with the original game was the synthesized electronic score, it reminded me of classic sci-fi films like ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Thing’, two films that just happen to be on my all time top 10 list. The music combined with an expansive universe and story that rivalled George Lucas’s ‘Galaxy far, far away’, made for an addictive ride this geek was happy to hop on.
Mass Effect 2 is everything a fan of the original game could have asked for; firstly you can continue your saved game from ME, and the choices you made in the first game help shape the story in ME2 and your relationship with key characters. Everything that made ME good the first time round is back, but with a nice new sheen. I literally loaded up ME2 straight after completing the first game, so the first thing that stood out was the graphical overhaul. 3 years had started to show on the original games visuals, not to mention all the glitches, ‘Mass Effect’ despite its brilliance has some major flaws.
The follow-up is a far more polished product, the animation is sharper and more detailed, everything has a shiny new coat. Gone are the big, widespread empty levels, to be replaced by more detailed and compact level designs. This isn’t to say the game is smaller, it has a less is more effect and on the whole exploration is more concise and more enjoyable. The biggest improvement is in the battle system, the gameplay is a lot tighter and the AI is smarter; far less fights are ruined by your team mates getting in the way, or not getting into cover when necessary. Ducking behind cover and blasting away enemies is as enjoyable as it is in the best cover-based shooters (like ‘Gears of War’). And this time the RPG elements feel smoother and more integrated into the overall experience. Switching weapons, shooting down an enemy and using all the characters tech/biotic powers works seamlessly. As a shooter the game excels and it overshadows its predecessor significantly.
There’s still a few little glitches in the works, I found myself stuck to the scenery maybe a couple of times during the entire game. For such a big and beautiful game these are minor blemishes in comparison to ME or something similar in scope like Fallout 3.
The game is an audio powerhouse, it’s got one of the most impressive sound designs I’ve heard. Once again the music is great and compliments the mood perfectly, the voice acting is of the highest standard, possibly even the best of any videogame I’ve played. And the diverse sound effects all make for an immersive aural experience, get the surround sound on and fully submerge yourself in the ME2 world.
It’s a cinematic piece of work that combines great storytelling, exceptional art design, solid graphics, stunning audio, a varied cast of characters and most importantly outstanding gameplay. And that’s why it’s my game of the year! Mass Effect 2 will be talked about in years from now for being one of the all time classic videogames. Roll on ME3 this year!
The Runners up;
Who would have thought Sega had this little gem in the bag? But Vanquish went under the radar, badly marketed, no online play or multiplayer options and for the few who did play it, not that many of them ‘got it’. Vanquish is a massively underrated game.
Vanquish is a third person shooter, the protagonist wears a mech-suit which he can utilise to boost around the stages at great speed. This skill can be used to the players advantage in many ways; finding new cover, flanking enemies, dodging an enemy attack, or to pull off a cheeky drop-kick manoeuvre. You can use cover to slow down the pace and hold your ground, in a similar way to ‘Gears Of War’, but you’re never safe in one place when playing Vanquish and this is when boosting from cover to cover becomes vital to your survival. Speedy gameplay is what Vanquish does best.
This is clearly a Japanese game designed to take on the Western market, it’s got influences pulled from Gears of War and Halo, but with a zany Japanese madness that makes it standout as one of the most original and fresh games in many a year. Being Japanese made it benefits from slick, solid graphics, with hardly any slowdown when it’s going full speed, or breakdown in animation, or graphical pop-ups common in Western games. There’s also a strong Japanese quirkiness in there. Epic boss fights and truly exhilarating action.
It’s a short lived, single player only affair, but brilliant all the same and so close to being my game of the year. I can not rave about this game enough.
I was disappointed with Fable 2, this looks pretty similar, yet it also feels like they’ve improved it so much. The nice graphics are slightly spoilt by some glitches and pop-up, but the game world is so detailed and immersive you wont mind too much.
Great voice acting, a story that pulls you in, atmospheric and magical music, genuinely funny dialogue and co-op gameplay that works. The only thing that let it down was a pretty short campaign.
Army of Two 40th Day
I don't think the reviews on this game were that favourable, but I loved it! It was made for one purpose; deliver a great co-op campaign experience offline and online, something that is lacking in a lot of games these days.
It’s a no-brainer-shoot em’ up-actionfest, add co-operative play and you’ve got a Gears of War clone that doesn't take itself too seriously. The weapon customisation is pretty cool too. I can't wait for a third installment.
What more can be said about the Halo series? The games haven't evolved much from the original, but when the gameplay mechanics are this solid they don’t really need to. The controls are polished to perfection, brilliant multi-player and co-op modes and it excels online. They have added some excellent new pick-ups though; rocketpacks, holograms, drop-shields etc.
It’s HALO! Nuff said.
I still need to play;
Red Dead Redemption
This is getting most gamers and critics 'game of the year' accolade for 2010, I've had a quick go on the 'Undead' add-on and thought it was good. I'm pretty sure it would have made the runners up list.
Mario Galaxy 2
I love Mario, I don't know why I haven't played this.