What We’re Playing: Our Games of the Year

January 18, 2011

With 2010 and a (hopefully) gaming-laden holiday period firmly behind us, what better time to look back at 2010 and pick our favourite games of the year? With so many great games released last year, we asked people here at the office to pick the cream of the crop and, naturally, the reasons why. Nothing reflects the breadth and quality of last year’s line-up as much as the fact that there’s no universal favourite in our picks.

Oh, before we dive in, don’t forget to let us know which games released in 2010 were your favourites. We can’t wait to find out!

Paul ‘Locki’ Wedgwood (CEO/Game Director):
Almost immediately following the conclusion of my Uncharted 2 experience (which I dubbed ‘Game of My Life’, for that blog entry), my 2010 commenced with an immediate replacement favourite game of all time – Mass Effect 2 (yes, this man is for turning). Back then I judged it as ‘Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant’, and frankly nothing that I’ve played since (although I’m admittedly a little behind… I flew 29 times in 2010, and became a father, god help my son), has left such an imprint; its dazzling and glittering brilliance inflaming and traumatizing my retinas, provoking the animus of my psyche with scars that look a little too much like the word ‘envy’. I’m naming Mass Effect 2 is my Game of 2010.

BioWare’s Mass Effect 2

Ed ‘BongoBoy’ Stern (Lead Writer):
An awful lot of really excellent games came out in 2010, but there can be only one choice for me. While I appreciate fully that acclaiming a Japanese mobile-only title as my Game Of The Year sounds like the very height of cooler-than-thou obscurantism, seriously, have you played it? Kairosoft’s Gemuhatsu Tenkoku (rather better known as Game Dev Story) is a tiny masterpiece. It succeeds as a history lesson and simulator and parody and really rather wonderful RPG. You start as the owner of a fledgeling game development studio, your secretary introduces new elements and dispenses advice, you hire staff, try to divine what market share which platform will have by the time the game is finished, pick a platform (Sonny Playstatus, Game Kid, Uranus etc), choose a genre and type (Ninja Dating Sim for instance) and then you just sit and watch yourself sit and watch them try to finish the game.

This may sound dull or so-so, but Game Dev Story consumed my attention to a terrifying degree. I came so close to missing my train stop so many times. It’s a time machine: if I need it to be 30 mins in the future, Game Dev Story will get me there in what seems like a fingerclick. I wondered if it’s only this compelling for developers so walked the earth, enquiring of devs and civilians alike. They were unanimous: they lost great huge chunks of time to it too, chortling all the while. I can’t help pondering how I’d fit in to the game’s roster of development staff (including Shigeto Minamoto, Stephen Jobson, Grizzly Bearington and Lady Googoo). Coding skill zero, clearly, maybe 90 Scenario, and a steadily decreasing Stamina bar, probably. It’s so tempting to do as the little virtual devs do and wander around the office demanding “Look!” in the hope of them saying “I See!” and thus earning a bunch of Research points we can spend boosting the game’s Fun. Perhaps I should watch Anime or go for a Walk, as apparently these would increase my Scenario writing and Coding stats. Also, I wonder if some crafty developer will indeed hire Kairobot The Robot to be at their stand at E3 this year. GAMEDEX. Whichever.

It’s a great game and well worth checking out. Here’s hoping that Kairosoft’s next offering – the intriguingly named “Waiwai! The Game Dealer” – gets localised over here too.

Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story

Ronald ‘Conine’ Koppers (Senior PlayStation 3 Programmer):
My top game for 2010 has got to be God of War III. It looks absolutely gorgeous, plays silky smooth and bashes those cuddly words with completely over the top violence and gore. Going from enormous set pieces like the fight on Gaia to the “intimate” moment when Kratos hugs Helios’ face, GoW:III just kept throwing more at the player without getting boring or repetitive. Just a brilliant game.

There have probably been far better games this year, but my number 2 is Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. The Sands of Time from the previous console generation has and probably will always be one of my favourite games of all time and while the last Prince of Persia was good in its own right, anything that has a throw-back to PoP:SoT will get a few bonus points from me. PoP:TFS wasn’t perfect but of all the modern PoP games it was the one that got closest to PoP:SoT in a current gen coat. Too much nostalgia-fuelled perhaps and played with rose tinted glassed, but it still stood out for me as a surprisingly fun game, especially not having read anything about it and expecting a movie tie-in.

Number three shouldn’t be a shocker for anybody that read my profile: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. The last two expansions my girlfriend and I set out to enjoy the quests and just be late to raiding, but in both cases we ended up getting tired of questing in a certain zone before we were actually done with it. For Cataclysm we decided to do it the other way around and burn through some quests before they got boring and jump straight into dungeons to level and gear up. Then a funny thing happened, we would finish a zone and still felt like questing some more and greatly enjoying this side of WoW again. An expansion that gives at least 15 additional hours of fun like that and then still has tons more to do is worth its spot.

Stephen ‘Crispy’ Etheridge (Lead Tester):
Limbo stood out for me in the same way Portal did on its release: short and very, very sweet.

Playdead Studios’ Limbo

Neil ‘Exedore’ Alphonso (Lead Designer):
Mass Effect 2: Rarely do you see a sequel improve on every aspect of the previous game, but Mass Effect 2 managed this brilliantly. Story, graphics, interface, audio, gameplay… the improved areas list goes on and on. Add to that some very good DLC that integrates into the game really well, and you’ve got a production landmark for the industry.

Darksiders: A really solid debut effort from Vigil games, with a great visual style and a tightness in fighting gameplay rarely seen out of Western studios. I found myself repeatedly impressed by the levels of ambition for a first game from a studio.

Game Dev Story: Perhaps not the deepest game in the world, but a slightly masochistic joy for anybody involved in professional game development. I’ve found myself dangerously low on battery life on my phone after playing a bit too much, in danger of getting stranded!

Olivier ‘Nosebone’ Leonardi (Art Director):
Vanquish: A game of frantic non-stop action, and the boss battles just phenomenal. Vanquish is a feast for the eyes, with the kind of visual effects overdose only Japanese studios can deliver.

God of War III: One word: Epic… epic battles, worlds of epic scale, epically violent. What is truly remarkable about GOW3 is its consistency, from the moment you press start game to the end credits rolling, you’re immersed in this universe and nothing pulls you out if it.

Red Dead Redemption: A vast and compelling world. once again Rockstar Games released a game with so much content, very good game mechanics and great characters. I luv Rockstar.

Sony Santa Monica’s God of War III

Arne Olav ‘ao’ Hallingstad (Programmer):
For 2010, my best game would have to be Civilization 5. It seems to have been simplified quite a bit, but I pretty much complete every game now as things don’t get as bogged down in the late game as in the previous installments.

StarCraft 2 comes in second. The single player was good and multiplayer is quite well balanced. I actually watch tournaments more than I play myself, especially Day9 and gomTV.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 multiplayer with friends is a lot of fun so it’d have to be my third place.

Tim ‘Huntle’ Rose (Associate Producer):
Does Left 4 Dead 2 count? OK, fine. Here goes, in no particular order…

Heavy Rain is unlike any other game I played last year. An extremely absorbing experience, taking story telling to new interactive heights. Simply fantastic.

Telltale Games’ Back to the Future: The Game. Great writing, fun puzzles and awesome voice talent help make this a really engaging experience. It captures the spirit of the films and serves it up in a deliciously digestible form – I can’t wait for episode 2!

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a coop game that surpassed my expectations. It’s a fun mix of combat and puzzles which, when experienced with a buddy, combines into one seriously addictive game.

I have to mention Red Dead Redemption for giving me a living world, thick with atmosphere to explore at my own pace, my way. I could ride that horse into the sunset for hours…

The extremes of platforming collide! VVVVVV and Super Mario Galaxy 2, the prince and the pauper in terms of budget, but equally disgustingly rich in gameplay. Both games, once picked up cannot be put down until defeated. The most frustrating, exciting and rewarding of games – the pure elation on completing a particularly fiendish level is a great feeling.

These will be my chutneys for this year!

UbiSoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
In no particular order: Red Dead Redemption, Fallout New Vegas, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Heavy Rain and Angry Birds (I know, technically it first came out in December 2009, but it’s had a plethora of content updates since).

Jeremy ‘Pinflux’ Hay (Media Artist):
I hardly feel qualified submitting to this list considering the dismal amount of games I actually played in 2010, but for my money Limbo was the most impressive. I’ve put the controller into the hands of several friends, most of whom wouldn’t consider themselves gamers, and have delighted in seeing just how quickly they’re sucked into the discomforting and sordid world of our hapless protagonist. The intuitive controls, elegantly austere visuals, and refreshingly oblique setting prove that more isn’t always more when it comes to crafting solid and compelling gaming experiences.

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
Mass Effect 2 kicked 2010 off with a huge bang straight from outer space. It’s a hugely polished experience and one of those sequels that improve the preceding game in every respect. I actually picked up some of the DLC during the holidays not having played the game for many months – it immediately drew me back into the universe and I can’t wait to see where the series goes in the third installment.

I didn’t know what to expect from Red Dead Redemption when I got it, but once I fired it up, I found it impossible to put down. It recreated the Wild West as a living, breathing world that’s fun to just be in. It’s another masterpiece from Rockstar and in this gamer’s opinion their best game to date.

But my favorite game of 2010 was Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Objectively, it might not bring much new to the assassinating table, but it’s superbly well executed and the best AC title yet. Much like Red Dead, the game world is authentic and inherently fun to explore and mess around in, and with tons of different side quests and mechanics, Brotherhood turned out to be both huge and hugely fun. More! More!

Honorable mentions: Game Dev Story, Civilization 5, Mafia II