It’s that time of year once again: people make and break resolutions in record time, large parties are thrown where people pretend to know the words to “Auld Lang Syne”, and journalists make “best of” lists and “year in review” columns to feel important. That said, I’m not exactly above this sort of thing, and so here I present my opinions on a select few video games of 2010. Let’s start with the less awesome end of the scale, shall we?
There were a lot of noteworthy releases this year, but the one surrounded by the greatest fanfare was Call of Duty: Black Ops. I don’t pretend to understand the fanaticism around the franchise that compels people to buy virtually the same game every year, but I usually end up playing it anyways. For a game sold on its multiplayer component, the fact that my friends and I spent more time waiting to join games and swearing at error messages than playing was definitely a problem. Also considering the fact that it looks like a near-exact copy of Modern Warfare 2, I’d say that this was definitely the most over-hyped game of the year.
Coming in at a close second for this dubious honour, however, would be the long-delayed Gran Turismo 5. After several years in development, this was supposed to be the greatest racing game of the year. What we got instead was another Gran Turismo 4 with some bits in HD. I spent a lot of time with the game, and was continually at odds with the clumsy menu system, unimpressive graphics, glaring balance issues, and a myriad of bewilderingly bad design choices.
There were a lot of games that were decidedly average over the last year as well. Fallout: New Vegas is an unfortunate example that springs to mind immediately. After 20 hours of play, the game just hadn’t grabbed me the way Fallout 3 did. The gameplay, characters, and quests all felt too familiar, and though there were a few welcome tweaks to the formula, it didn’t compel me to sink in the necessary time to see everything the way its predecessor did.
As fun as it is to point out mediocrity, though, there were some genuinely excellent efforts produced from the past year that should applauded. Fable III was finally the installment in the series that delivered most of what it had been promising for years. A refined combat system, a more engaging storyline, and a thoroughly satisfying transition from revolutionary to monarch all came together for an incredibly tight gaming experience.
The Microsoft Kinect was another pleasant surprise. The current library of titles hasn’t quite convinced me to shell out the cash for one yet, but Dance Central was strangely addictive with its excellent tutorial mode and catchy soundtrack, and the plethora of people doing amazing things with the Kinect outside of games is staggering, from modeling 3D environments to implementing a full-on Minority Report-style user interface. Hopefully, this means that there’s a lot of territory yet to be explored outside of fitness trainers and sports games.
Far and away the most outstanding title this year, however, was Mass Effect 2. An incredible story, the ability to import a save file from the prequel for continuity, and some extremely satisfying interactive cut scenes all made Mass Effect 2 a totally immersive and nearly perfect game. To top this all off, the Edmonton-based developer, BioWare, followed up the release with some of the best downloadable content I’ve ever seen, cementing Mass Effect 2 as one of the best games of all time.
So with the titles of 2010 now squared away, the big releases of 2011 are lining up to be mercilessly scrutinized for the benefit of journalists’ egos everywhere. With Infamous 2, Mass Effect 3, Bulletstorm, and Dragon Age 2 on the horizon, it’s shaping up to be a good year for video games – one that’s bound to be just as impressive as 2010.